Archive for October 2013

My, What Big Data Teeth you have, Grandmother: An Open Letter to Utah Legislators   10 comments

Dear Utah Legislator,

I’m writing to you as a mother to ask you to put a stop to the use of Utah’s school systems as snooping agents on our children.

Corporate and federal partnerships and Utah state data systems and interstate partnerships now watch and track our children without anyone having asked for parental consent to do so.

Some Utah leaders are working hard to fortify privacy rights, I know. But many powerful organizations, departments and corporations are working hard to ignore, dismiss, or stop any efforts to defend student privacy– all with great intentions but absolutely without authority.

The result is a data collecting and sharing network that represents loss of parental authority and loss of individual privacy.

In recent years, Utah built and is now using a federally structured and paid-for ($9.6 M) State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) from which no parent is permitted to opt their child out.

This lack of liberty should be a red flag.

But few Utahns know that their child is being tracked and very few know that they can’t opt out of that tracking.

Fewer still know that there’s a Utah Data Alliance (UDA) that links K-12 data, collected by schools, with higher ed., with the State workforce and other agencies.

Utah’s UDA has agreed to use the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC) State Core Model –which means all of our data will be interoperable and sharable across state lines. The PESC’s State Core Model aligns different states’ SLDS data systems so that they all match.

I am not saying that Utah agencies are sharing private data yet; I am saying that there’s nothing strong preventing them from doing so and that school systems are moving in the direction of more and more data commonality and disaggregation of student data. (see point 4 at that link.)

Countless entities have lined up with a “Data Quality Campaign” to make sure all their data points and technologies match, so that student information can be pooled.

Federal FERPA laws, previously protective of student data, have now been grossly loosened, and federal agencies including the NCES and the Department of Education, as well as White House events such as “Datapalooza” and White House Chiefs such as Joanne Weiss, are encouraging us to pool data, while (weakly) noting that student privacy is, of course, important. Yet proper protections are missing.

The Department of Education does a two-faced dance, asking for “robust data” and altering FERPA on the one hand, and insisting that they don’t even collect student data when speaking to the press. The U.S. Department of Education’s intentions are, however, revealed in the student-level data-sharing mandate in its cooperative testing agreements and in the contrast between what Secretary Arne Duncan says and does.

The PESC model was developed by the unelected, private trade group, CCSSO, as part of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) funded by the Gates Foundation. (CCSSO is the same private group that developed and copyrighted Common Core standards). The PESC Model, in its own definition, “includes early childhood, elementary and secondary, post-secondary, and workforce elements, known as “P20,” and establishes comparability between sectors and between states.”

PESC states that it “will do for State Longitudinal Data Systems what the Common Core is doing for Curriculum Frameworks and the two assessment consortia. The core purpose of an SLDS is to fulfill federal reporting…”

I find this alarming. You might find it hard to believe that Utah is lined up with it.

So here is the evidence:

The agreement is stated on page 4 of section 1 (page 20 on the PDF) of Utah’s 2009 ARRA Data Grant: “The UDA will adhere to standards such as the School Interoperability Framework (SIF), the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC) and other XML schemas.”

Here is the PESC State Core Model abstract.

“1.0 Abstract

The State Core Model is a common technical reference model for states implementing state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). It was developed by CCSSO as part of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) adoption work with funding from the Gates Foundation…The State Core Model will do for State Longitudinal Data Systems what the Common Core is doing for Curriculum Frameworks and the two assessment consortia. The core purpose of an SLDS is to fulfill federal reporting (EDEN/EDFacts)…
The Model [can replace] 625 distinct Federal reporting types with record-level data collections.

… The Model is designed to address unique, complex P20 SLDS relationships, business rules, and entity factoring… It addresses student-teacher link, common assessment data model, and comes pre-loaded with Common Core learning standards.

The State Core Model consists of three principle artifacts… All three artifacts can be downloaded and used without charge or attribution from [the EIMAC group site].”

Data Baby

And, what is EIMAC? In case you hadn’t heard of EIMAC: it’s the branch of the CCSSO that “advocates on behalf of states to reduce data collection burden and improve the overall quality of the data collected at the national level.” Yes, they said that out loud. They collect data at the national level without authority nor any representation.

But, but– (we say) –Aren’t we protected by GEPA law and by the Constitution from any sort of “accountability” to federal agencies in educational matters or privacy matters including “unreasonable searches”?

Not if our legislators don’t defend these rights.

According to the PESC document, on page 5, we are drowning in “federal accountability”. There are at least 625 federal reports mentioned at PESC. A few include: http://www.pesc.org/library/docs/Common%20Data%20Standards/State%20Core%20Model%2011-17.pdf

EDEN – EDFacts 79 file types
CRDC – Civil Rights Data Collection 2 parts
SFSF – State Fiscal Stabilization Fund 33 indicators, 3 descriptors
MSRI – Migrant Student Records Exchange Initiative
CSPR – Consolidated State Performance Reports 191 Indicators
OSEP – Office of Special Education Programs 34 indicators
IPEDS – Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System
CCD – Common Core Data (fiscal) Financial data collected in survey format
SDFSCA – Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Act Data are collected in CSPR
M-V – McKinney-Vento Collected through CSPR.
Perkins – Perkins Act
RTTT – Race to the Top N/A
TIF – Teacher Incentive Fund 6 Sections
N or D Annual Report of Neglected and Delinquent (N or D) Children Collected through CSPR”

—————–

To clarify: the document that signed us up for PESC is the Utah application for the ARRA grant for a SLDS database. (This document resulted in Utah receiving $9.6 million from the federal government, none of which was used for actual education, but only to build the student database (SLDS).)

That SLDS grant application talks about authorizing de-identification of data for research and it says that individuals will be authorized to access personal student information in the various Utah agencies that belong to UDA.

Who are these individuals? How many of them are there? Why does the UDA trust them with information that parents weren’t even told was being gathered on our children?

NON-COGNITIVE AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DATA, TOO.

Starting at page 87, we read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academics, will be collected and studied by school systems.

These include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)”

The SSI inventory –your child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the system (SLDS) and there are plans to do this for earlier grades, but for now it’s for 11th and 12th graders. Demographic information is captured while administering the test and SSI data will be given to whomever it is assumed needs to see it. (This is not a parental decision but a state decision.)

INTEGRATING STUDENT PSYCHOMETRIC CENSUS DATA INTO THE SLDS SYSTEM:

The SLDS grant also promises to integrate our psychological data into the SLDS (that database which the feds paid for/pushed on us.)

“Utah’s Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance programs have substantial Student Education Occupation Plan, (SEOP) data, but they are not well integrated with other student data. With the introduction of UtahFutures and the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and its focus on noncognitive data, combining such data with other longitudinal student level data to the USOE Data
Warehouse
the UDA. Both the USOE (K-12) and the Postsecondary Outcomes and Data Needs
sub-sections will address these needs.”

(My, what big data collection teeth you have, Grandmother!The better to integrate you with, my dear.)

Next, on page 87 of the same grant, Utah’s application for the ARRA money, it says:

“… psychosocial or noncognitive factors… include, but are not limited to educational commitment, academic engagement and conscientiousness, social comfort and social integration, academic self-efficacy, resiliency… Until recently, institutions had to rely on standardized cognitive measures to identify student needs.
… We propose to census test all current student in grades 11 and 12 and then test students in grade 11 in subsequent years using the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) – a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.”

So the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah. That’s how they’re gathering the psychological data.

But that’s not the only way psychological data is being taken in Utah schools. “Behavioral indicators” are also required to be collected by the Common Core tests, those math and English A.I.R. or SAGE tests, as Utah House Bill 15, aka the Common Core Computer Adaptive Testing Bill, demands.

What can we do?

markey images

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Markey has taken action. He articulated his concerns on this subject in a letter to Secretary Arne Duncan. Other legislators around the nation are writing bills to take protective action for student privacy.

I hope all Utah legislators read Senator Markey’s letter, peruse the PESC and ARRA (SLDS) grant documents, look into the SSI surveys, study the machinations of Secretary Arne Duncan,and then take action to put an end to the unreined and ever-growing network of entities which collude for profit and for other, various control-related reasons, to dismiss the vital right of student privacy.

This would mean ending the “partnerships” by Utah with: the CCSSO, the Data Quality Campaign, the PESC State Model, the SLDS interoperability framework, the National Data Collection Model, the CEDS program of EIMAC; it would mean creating proper protections inside the Utah Data Alliance, and most of all, it would mean establishing permission from parents prior to any student SLDS surveillance.

Thank you.

Christel Swasey
Utah Mother

Dr. Gary Thompson Testifies to Wisconsin Legislature: Common Core Test is Cognitive Child Abuse   16 comments

Dr Thompson

Dr. Gary Thompson of the Utah-based Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center traveled to Wisconsin to testify about the damages of Common Core to the Wisconsin Legislature.

You can watch his whole testimony by clicking here.

Below is a lively commentary by Dr. Thompson about his reasons for testifying boldly against Common Core both as a father and as a clinical psychologist.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

Our Kids Are Bigger Than You: Final Thoughts on Wisconsin Common Core Legislative Testimony

by Dr. Gary Thompson

“All students are expected to participate in the state accountability system with only a few exceptions, as noted below. This principle of full participation includes EL students, students with an IEP, and students with a Section 504 plan…. The IEP, EL, Section 504, EL with disabilities, and EL on Section 504 team cannot exempt a student from the statewide testing requirements.”
-Utah State Office Of Education, 2013-14 Testing accomodations policy

Part I: Pre Hearing, or, My Motivations for Professional Suicide

On October 12, 2013, “a person in a position of influence” called from Wisconsin and asked if I would like to participate as an expert witness in the State of Wisconsin’s “War against Common Core.”

He obviously did not have that much influence, because my response was a quick, “Thank you, but hell, no.”

Education leadership, both at the local and national levels, is talented at turning any movements geared towards change into politically-based personal warfare.

I had already attempted to fight this battle in Utah and did not wish to engage in it any further.

But then an interview, featuring my teenage daughter and her battle to drop an AP class that was exacerbating her anxiety, appeared in our local newspaper:
Utah Father Had To Fight To Have Daughter Drop A Class“.

After reading over 50 ignorant and cruel comments directed toward my daughter —many of which were made by (alleged) current educators/administrators in Utah—I simply could not take it anymore.

Now, I generally have a pretty thick skin. Although I currently do not practice clinical psychology in any licensed form, I am a licensed – eligible trained clinician with over 5,000 documented clinical training hours (11,000 hours total). Part of that training revolves around maintaining a healthy professional distance from highly emotional situations. But these people were attacking my child. And they didn’t even know her!

andie thompson

Prior to my daughter’s situation with her school, I had given up all thoughts of future participation regarding Utah’s education reform. Politicians, educators, and parents had decided the current path of Common Core-based education was just fine for their constituents and their children. My response to that was basically, “Good for you. Have fun with that… I’m out.”

My focus would be on my work, my wife and my children. I felt relief.

To hell with the State of Utah.

To hell with the Common Core movement.

It was not my problem anymore. My kids were “safe.”

Wisconsin’s education issues? Not my problem either.

But after my daughter’s school decided to play hardball over what should have been a relatively simple decision and total strangers decided to weigh in with their opinions on my daughter’s character, my wife received the following e-mail from a professor at the University of Wisconsin:

——————————

Dear Dr. Frances Thompson:

I write to thank you sincerely for understanding why it is imperative that Gary testify against Common Core in the state of Wisconsin on 23 October 2013.

Common Core will put our most vulnerable students at risk, and is especially destructive to special needs children. We have already seen the damage done to these students by programs like No Child Left Behind, which in reality left behind many of our poorest and most needy students, especially minority students.

The problems with No Child Left Behind are magnified significantly with Common Core, and the high stakes testing and one size fits all approach to education will wreak irreparable harm for a whole new generation of special needs kids.

We have invited anumber of specialists in Math and Science and English to testify about the data and explain to our state senatorial committee why Common Core is bad education, bad pedagogy, and bad for teachers and students in general These committed scholars will provide raw numbers and make academic arguments.

Gary’s gift –beyond his credentials and professionalism–lies in putting a human face on these kids for the committee, humanizing a problem that is all too often viewed in terms of statistics and dollars, and championing with great compassion those who have no voice of their own in this battle for our children’s futures. In the final analysis, this is what matters most, and without Gary our case is merely mechanical.

I cannot guarantee that Gary’s testimony will be the blow that turns back Common Core in Wisconsin. But I do know that without him, our case is weakened. I understand the hardship his absence will cause your family in the short term, but I also believe that Gary’s advocacy for thousands and thousands of school children in Wisconsin will bless them and his family in the long run. We would be extremely grateful to you for enduring his absence for a short period of time on behalf of the people of Wisconsin.

Thank you very much,

Dr. Duke Pesta
Professor of English
University of Wisconsin

——————

That simple, humble plea from someone who has dedicated his life to teaching our nation’s young adults affected me deeply.

I decided I had to go to Wisconsin.

I also decided that if I went, I wanted to be effective. I am not an effective public speaker. I speak slowly, and I stammer sometimes when my brain processes information faster than I can speak.

It is my disability, and going to Wisconsin would display it to the world. However, if my teenager had the courage to display her “disability” to the world, I did not care if I stuttered and stammered like an uneducated idiot on crack on live television for two hours for the world to see. I was going.

Part II: Preparation, or, Ensuring That My Professional Suicide Is Effective

That meant I had to condense a very complex issue down to a few key points and hammer them home with the force of my convictions. I also had to communicate in a way that would resonate with conservatives and liberals of all cultures.

I also had to prepare myself for those who seek to destroy reputations and self-esteem. People entrenched in the political and education machines of either party will go to great lengths to keep the status quo. I knew the facts of what I would testify to would be indisputable. However, I had to find a way to blunt the comments of those who would seek to make this about politics,religion, as opposed to what was in the best interest of the children or myself.

My theme was simply going to be this: “You are not bigger than the children.”

It was this thought that came to mind when what I feared the most occurred during the very first question of the hearing from a Senate Democrat Lehman. It was not about the issues, but about the money.

http://www.wqow.com/story/23774236/2013/10/23/core-inspection-eau-claire-public-hearing-about-education-standards.

Politics and money have to take a backseat to the best interests of the children in order for education to be effective. Ironically, the comments directed towards my family and my daughter in the Tribune served as a training ground for the upcoming testimony. I read every of those vile attacks in preparation. I was more than prepared for “straw man” attacks.

The “Core” Of the Issue: Testing — the Ultimate Trojan Horse

The November 13, 2013 issue of Wired magazine published an article titled, “How A Radical New Teaching Method Could Unlock A Generation of Geniuses”.
http://www.wired.com/business/2013/10/free-thinkers/

I found it by accident on the plane to Wisconsin. Here are some excerpts that hit home:

“…the dominant model of public school education is still fundamentally rooted in the industrial revolution that spawned it, when work places valued punctuality, regularity, attention, and silence above all else.” (P.159).

“…we don’t openly profess those values nowadays, but our educational system—which routinely tests kids on their ability to recall information and demonstrate a master of narrow skill sets— doubles down on the view that students are material to be processed.” (P.160).

I found that I could not focus on research articles on the subject at hand, but was drawn to read the hundreds of letters and texts I have received from parents around the country whose children have been victimized, some permanently, by a education system that values conformity over the common sense and expertise of the parent.

I then made the decision to use these letters as my motivation, but to keep the issue simple. I have always advised “professional” activists to focus less on the political or religious aspects that may or may not be associated with the Common Core. Trying to convince a group of Democrat lawmakers that President Obama is a socialist from Kenya who is undergoing mind control from the Chicago Political Machine did not make sense to me as a Doctor. If the goal was to stop Common Core, then my plan was to relentlessly attack their “Trojan Horse,” which was the test itself.

So in the 20 minutes of… testimony, the following points were hammered home:

1. Despite misleading reports from State Superintendents from Utah and Wisconsin regarding how well Core Tests have been “pilot tested”, it was indisputable that the FINAL version of the Core test (complete with its most experimental component of “adaptability”) would never be properly tested, evaluated and “tweaked” in a transparent manner by independent experts prior to our children taking the tests in 2014-2015.

2. With that fact in mind, the only reasonable conclusion was that our children were being used as research guinea pigs under the direction and approval of our respective State Superintendents. (See Dr. Thompson and Attorney Ed Flint’s Letter To Utah Superintendent of Schools Dr. Martell Menlove: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/dr-thompsons-letter-to-superintendent-menlove/)

3. We have over 50 years of peer reviewed data showing psychology’s struggles of measuring “achievement” as well as cognitive potential (I.Q.) of African American, Latino, ADHD, Autistic, Dual Exceptional, and children diagnosed with specific learning disabilities.

The SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), the group that the federal government paid hundreds of millions of dollars to facilitate the production of these tests, proudly proclaimed on their web pages that they have basically solved this problem. My exact words were, “SBAC has just announced to the world that they have created the ‘Holy Grail’ of Achievement Tests.” That feat is kind of hard to perform if no validation studies have been performed.

4. I compared and contrasted the extreme difference between the ways children were tested/evaluated in the private clinical psychology sector, versus the current way proposed by the U.S. Department of Education via the SBAC. Professionals in clinical psychology have learned through a 100-year history of well-documented testing abuse in America to put into place restraints to ensure the safety of our children. Common Core testing policies arrogantly ignored each and every one of these.

5. We need to stop our obsessive focus on measuring WHAT our children havel earned and focus on utilizing neuropsychology technologies available that can now measure with great accuracy HOW a child’s brain processes information (PASS Theory, Naglieri, 2008).

6. Professional recommendation: Stop Common Core testing.

7. Recommendation as a father: Don’t let your kids take the test.

Part III: The Night Before: Fearless or Foolish?

I did not sleep the entire night before the Hearing. The enormity of what I was about the say to the entire country, and the probable consequences for engaging in this form of idiocy against the “machine” weighed heavily on my mind. It is one thing for a father to get ticked off at a local high school’s treatment of his daughter and have that anger on display in a mid-market newspaper.

It’s a entire different ballgame for a Black dude to get up in front of 17 of the State of Wisconsin’s lawmakers with cameras rolling and tell them that the most significant piece of the U.S. Department of Education’s signature education reform in the history of the nation… was simply made up.

If that was not enough, I was going to tell them this piece of legislation that came through under their watch, as currently constituted, has a very high statistical chance of harming millions of children while the “kinks” get worked out. Indeed, they would be initiating “cognitive child abuse.”

Unlike the Affordable Care Act, whose rocky start has been chronicled by both liberal and conservative media outlets, if Common Core displays similar problems, a generation of children will not be able to take advantage of the power that higher education bestows. Ironically, the group of children of Black and Latino descent stand to suffer at the hands of the nation’s first African American President. Even more ironic was the fact that I campaigned for the President with my daughter.

Mark Twain famously penned, “There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.”

The education machine was caught without a significant form of statistical validity proof showing that the Common Core tests will actually work on a significant population of children.

The solution for the education machines problem? Make something up. Publish the imaginary statistics. Call the Doctor an idiot. Move on.

When Utah’s Superintendent of Schools Martell Menlove was confronted with the same exact proof that Common Core tests will be nothing more than an experimentation that will most likely harm tens of thousands of vulnerable children in Utah, he responded to the masses with a letter from the Test Designer (American Institute of Research) that is still posted on the Utah State Office of Education website.

After the powers to be from the powerful AIR test development group devoted a page-and-a-half of weak attempts to debunk solid concerns surrounding privacy issues of testing, my concerns were addressed in a single paragraph. The response from the V.P. of AIR can be roughly translated as, “Trust me.”

“On a final note, Dr. Thompson expresses concern about the tests appropriately serving students with disabilities. AIR has a long history of serving students with disabilities, and we have invested in making our testing platform the most accessible possible. In addition, we always advise our clients to design tests that adhere to the principles of fair testing outlined by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities guidelines for adaptive testing, which can be found at: http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/education/CCD_Computer_Adaptive_Testing_final.pdf.

Sincerely,

Jon Cohen”

Part V: Aftermath, or, What’s Next?

…Suffice to say, I do not feel that I am a hero or a role model. Heroes and role models do the right thing, regardless of consequences, because of a well-formed sense of right and wrong based on well-developed principles.

Me? Arne Duncan of the U.S. Department of Education sent down a bunch of unproven education policies that harmed not one, but two of my children over the past two years. I went to Wisconsin because I was a rage-filled dad. I was a father who was able to tap into a Doctoral level education as well as his “inner A-Hole.” The e-mail sent to my wife by Professor Pesta was influential in my decision, but it was not what fueled my passion. Nelson Mandela I am not.

A parent wrote me last night and asked if I was going to send a copy of this treatise along with the clip of my testimony to the very same Utah Board of Education that ignored my public pleas as a father. I did not respond at the time, but here is my emphatic reply: No.

With a few clicks of a mouse on Google, interested parties, parents, and activist groups can find close to 100 pages of my written opinions, multiple video testimonies, and radio/television interviews. There is nothing more to say.

I did, however, hire a publicist yesterday after my cell phone started ringing off the hook with media requests and my Facebook page filled up with everything from a marriage proposal, to a guy in Georgia who called me a “House Negro.” My days of putting myself out there via attempts to reform public school education are over. It appears from the size of her operation that Julie Jakob of Jakob Marketing Partners does not need a business plug from me, but perhaps it may save our clinic some money when the first invoice arrives (http://www.jakobmp.com).

In addition to answering inquiries and protecting the brand of my wife’s clinic that may come under siege because her husband “lost his mind”, I will be using this firm to assist those without means to obtain the state-of-the-art services my wife’s educational psychology clinic offers. Jakob Marketing Partners will be responsible for touting a future webpage/link that will solicit donations from this community to help children whose families are not otherwise in a position to help them.

In 2014, we will be proud to announce the formation of the “Booker-Dewey Early Life Scholarship Foundation” which will be the vehicle for securing funds for those children in Utah with unique learning disabilities to obtain services not offered in public schools.

The scholarship is named after two highly influential people in my life. The first is my recently deceased grandmother, Lizzette Booker. While living in the sticks of West Virginia without plumbing, she raised two African-American daughters who obtained college degrees. She also obtained one herself when she was 70 years old. John Dewey is a former classmate of mine who saved my life during a difficult time during my long journey to obtain my doctorate degree. You would not be reading this letter if it was not for either of them. Their legacy will ensure that the lives of at least some vulnerable children in the States of Utah and California will be able to take advantage of the talents of the next generation of clinical psychologists. I placed emphasis on the word “next” because my time at the clinic needs to come to an end.

I have a three-year-old that is (still) waiting for her dad to help her learn to “poop in the potty”.

I also need to contribute my time and talents to the “Booker-Dewey Foundation”. Someone sent me a message two days ago stating that there is a book about Common Core on Amazon that apparently is making profit off the fruits of my many interesting journeys as a reluctant “activist.” I figure I could probably do the book thing better, since they were my experiences. All proceeds will be donated to the Foundation. I would encourage you all reading this to “Like”the Clinic’s Facebook page so you can be informed of future developments of the foundation and the upcoming e-book.

Thank you, State of Wisconsin, for this opportunity. Please remember and practice the mantra, “Parents are, and must always be, the resident experts of their own children.”

Why? Because “They are not bigger than your children.”

Best Regards,

Dr. Gary T. Thompson

Director of Clinical Training and Community Advocacy Services

Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center, Inc.

———————-

Thank you, Dr. Thompson.

Admitted: Common Core Math is NOT Meant to Prepare Students for Bachelor’s Degrees   9 comments

Subservience to truly stupid ideas —like dumbing down high school math for economic gain— was never meant to be the destiny of the free American people.

Yet that is what has happened to American education under Common Core. In the video testimony of Common Core creator Jason Zimba, in recent articles by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), in the written testimony of Common Core validation members Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. James Milgram, and in the 2013 Common Core report of the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) we see that Common Core math deliberately diminishes and weakens, rather than adding to, high school math standards.

At the American Institutes for Research (AIR) website, (FYI, this is the company that writes Utah’s Common Core math and English test) there are articles claiming that it’s in the best interest of the taxpayers that more students should only aim for a two year college degree.

AIR dismisses the idea that a student might WANT to learn more than what is available at the associates’ degree level. Individual desires and rights don’t even factor into the collectivism of education reform.

AIR fails to address the fact that not all college educations are tax-funded; some people actually pay for their own tuition. AIR takes the socialist view that taxpayers are “stakeholders” so they should determine whether a student may or may not get more education. AIR says: “Do graduates who earn an associate’s degree and participate in the labor force experience returns, such as higher wages, that justify the costs incurred by them in obtaining that degree? Do taxpayers receive a positive return on their investment in the production of associate’s degrees?”

stotsky

Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the official Common Core Validation Committee, has written an article, Common Core Math Standards Do Not Prepare U.S. Students for STEM Careers. How Come?” (It is posted in full at Heritage Foundation’s website.)

Dr. Stotsky writes that states adopted Common Core math because they were told that it would make high school students “college- and career-ready” and would strengthen the pipeline for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), but it is clear this claim was not true. Stotsky reminds us that Professor James Milgram has testified to the fact that common core math dumbed down U.S. high school standards.

milgram
James Milgram

With the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the math standards END after Algebra II, reported Stanford emeritus professor James Milgram (Milgram was also an official member of the Common Core validation committee.)

Both Milgram and Stotsky refused to sign off on the academic quality of the national standards, and made public their explanation and criticism of the final version of Common Core’s standards.

Stotsky points out that the lead mathematics standards writers themselves were telling the public how LOW Common Core’s high school math standards were. At a March 2010 meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jason Zimba, a lead writer, told the board that the standards are “not only not for STEM, they are also not for selective colleges.”

Yet, strangely, Stotsky was the only member of the board who expressed concern upon hearing Zimba’s words. Watch that one minute video here.

Stotsky explains:

“U.S. government data show that only one out of every 50 prospective STEM majors who begin their undergraduate math coursework at the precalculus level or lower will earn bachelor’s degrees in a STEM area. Moreover, students whose last high school mathematics course was Algebra II or lower have less than a 40 percent chance of earning any kind of four-year college degree.”

Not only that: Stotsky points out that in January 2010, William McCallum, another lead mathematics standards writer, told a group of mathematicians: “The overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [to] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.”

Dr. Stotsky also notes that there are “other consequences to over 46 states having a college readiness test with low expectations.” The U.S. Department of Education’s competitive grant program, Race to the Top, required states to place students who have been admitted by their public colleges and universities into credit-bearing (non-remedial) mathematics (and English) courses if they have passed a Common Core–based “college readiness” test. Stotsky writes: “Selective public colleges and universities will likely have to lower the level of their introductory math courses to avoid unacceptably high failure rates.”

Stotsky says, “It is still astonishing that over 46 boards of education adopted Common Core’s standards—usually at the recommendation of their commissioner of education and department of education staff—without asking the faculty who teach mathematics and English at their own higher education institutions (and in their own high schools) to do an analysis of Common Core’s definition of college readiness… Who could be better judges of college readiness?”

Read the rest of Stotsky’s article here.

What about NCEE? Surely the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) would not want to dumb down your child!

Sigh.

In the 2013 report from NCEE, “What Does It Really Mean to be College and Career Ready?” it recommends that we all throw out the higher math we used to teach in high schools in America.

“Mastery of Algebra II is widely thought to be a prerequisite for success in college and careers. Our research shows that that is not so… Based on our data, one cannot make the case that high school graduates must be proficient in Algebra II to be ready for college and careers. The high school mathematics curriculum is now centered on the teaching of a sequence of courses leading to calculus that includes Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. However, fewer than five percent of American workers and an even smaller percentage of community college students will ever need to master the courses in this sequence in their college or in the workplace… they should not be required courses in our high schools. To require these courses in high school is to deny to many students the opportunity to graduate high school because they have not mastered a sequence of mathematics courses they will never need. In the face of these findings, the policy of requiring a passing score on an Algebra II exam for high school graduation simply cannot be justified.”

MARC TUCKER NCEE

Read the rest of the NCEE report here.

When will people stop saying that Common Core standards are legitimate preparation for 4 year colleges? It so obviously isn’t true.

When will people admit that Common Core caters to a low common denominator and robs high achievers and mid-achievers? Probably never. Proponents pushed Common Core on Americans for a deliberate purpose: so that politicians and the private corporations they’ve partnered with, can analyze, punish and reward those who have forgotten that they have real rights under a real Constitution to direct and control their own affairs.

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Thank you, Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. James Milgram for your tireless testimonies about American education reforms that hurt our children and our country.

ben franklin tyrants rebellion is obedience

Senator Markey: Letter to Arne Duncan Questioning Student Data Collection Practices   9 comments

markey images

Democratic Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey has written a vital letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about the loss of student privacy under new education reforms. The Senator asks the Secretary eight great questions. My favorite is question #2.a): “Should parents, not schools, have the right to control information about their children?”

Senator Markey’s full letter is posted below. Please share it with your senators and with your state superintendents, who may, by their connection to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and its partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, have sway in getting to real answers more quickly.

Markey letter on data

October 22, 2013

The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary Duncan:

The efficient collection, analysis and storage of K-12 students’ academic records holds promise for improving scholastic performance and closing the achievement gap. By collecting detailed personal information about students’ test results and learning abilities, educators may find better
ways to educate their students. However, putting the sensitive infomation of students in private hands raises a number of important questions about the privacy rights of parents and their children.

According to a recent article in The New York Times (“Decidir1g Who Sees Students’ Data”, October 5, 2013), a growing number of school districts are outsourcing data storage functions to private companies. This change, the companies assert, will “streamline access to students’ data to bolster the market for educational products”. While better analysis of student reading may, for example, help educators better target the appropriate reading materials to students, disclosure of such information, which mayr extend well beyond the specific private company hired by the school district to a constellation of other firms with which the district does not have a business relationship, raises concerns about the degree to which student privacy mayI be compromised.

Moreover, as the article cited above also explains, sensitive information such as students’ behavior and participation patterns also may be included in files outsourced to third-party data firms and potentially distributed more widely to additional companies without parental consent.

Such loss of parental control over their child’s educational records and performance information could have longstanding consequences for the future prospects of students.

Recent changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) permit “schools to share student data, without notifying parents, with companies to which they have outsourced core functions like scheduling or data management,” according to the Times article. The infomation shared with private companies mayr vary from infomation such as grades, test scores, and attendance records, to other sensitive data such as disability, ­family relationships, and
disciplinary data.

In an effort to understand the Department’s views on the impact of increased collection and distribution of student data on their privacy, I respectfully request that the Department provide answers to the follow questions:

1) In 2008 and 2011, the Department issued new regulations with respect to FERPA that addressed how schools can outsource core functions such as scheduling or data management and how third parties may access confidential information about students. These changes also permit other government agencies that are not under the direct control of state educational authorities, such as state health departments, to access student infomation. Please explain those changes.

a. Why did the Department make these changes?

b. Did the Department perform any analysis regarding the impact of these changes on student privacy? If yes, please provide it. If not, why not?

2) Has the Department performed an assessment ofthe types of infomation that are shared by schools with third party vendors, including but not limited to Contact information, grades, disciplinary data, test scores, curriculum planning, attendance records, academic subjects, course levels, disabilities, family relationships, and reasons for enrollment? If yes, please provide it. If not, why not?

a. Should parents, not schools, have the right to control infomation about their children even when their data is in the hands of a private company?

b. Do you believe that parents should have the right to choose which infomation is shared by schools with third party vendors and which is kept confidential?

In other words, is it the Department’s view that some elements of personal data are more sensitive than others, and therefore deserve greater protections?

2) Has the Department issued federal standards or guidelines that detail what steps schools should take to protect the privacy of student records that are stored and used by private companies? For example, are there guidelines about access to the information, how long it can be retained, hcw it will be used, whether it will be shared with other parties (including but not limited to colleges to which students apply), and if it can be sold to others? lf yes, please provide those standards 0r guidelines. If not, why not and will the Department undertake the development and issuance of such guidelines?

4) Are there minimization requirements that require private companies to delete information that is not necessary to enhance educational quality for students?

5) Do students and their families continue to have the right to access their personal infomation held by private companies as they would if their personal information were held by educational institutions? If yes, please explain how students and families may exercise this right and how they should be informed of the existence of this right. If not, why not?

6) While there are significant potential benefits associated with better collection and analysis of student data, does the Department believe that there also are possible risks when students’ personal infomation is shared with such ñrms and third parties? If yes, what is the Department doing to mitigate these risks? If not, why not?

7) Does the Department require entities that access student data to have security measures in place, including encryption protocols or other measures, to prevent the loss of or acquisition of data that is transferred between schools and third parties? What security measures does the Department require that private companies have in place to safeguard the data once it is stored in their systems?

8) Does the Department monitor whether these third parties are safeguarding students’ personal infomation and abide by FERPA or guidelines released by the Department? If yes, please explain. If not, why not?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Please provide written responses to these questions no later than November 12, 2013. If you have any questions, please have a member of your staff contact Joseph Wender on Senator Markey’s staff at 202-224-2742.

Sincerely,

Edward J. Markey
United States Senator

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Thank you, Senator Markey.

82 Teachers Talk Back to NEA, Debunk Common Core   21 comments

angryteacher

Here are 82 comments written by teachers who commented after this week’s National Education Association (NEA) promo article about Common Core. The article is here.

The teachers call the Common Core, and the NEA’s phony poll (that said that teachers love it) and the NEA’s shameless promotion of it, rubbish.

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82 Responses to “10 Things You Should Know About the Common Core

David R Mawson says:

October 19, 2013 at 6:36 pm

I am an NEA member and building delegate for my urban high school and I do no support the Common Core. But I am more upset that the NEA is enabling corporate special interests to not only drive but shape public policy. This is the responsibility of local education boards working in concert with taxpayers and parents. Those are the people to whom public school teachers should be responsible.

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Linda says:

October 19, 2013 at 6:53 pm

NEA gets my dues, but it does NOT represent me when it comes to CC. Where is the link to the actual survey that you repeatedly claim shows that 75% of us support CC? How much tainted money has the NEA accepted from the Gates Foundation? Common Core is developmentally inappropriate and is intractably connected to the over testing of our children. I suggest you dedicate the next issue of NEAToday to the rebuttals against CC. You will not need to look hard for contributors. #badassteacherA

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Janet says:

October 20, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I cannot believe that this is happening. I cannot believe that the unions that are supposed to be supporting us are telling lies. I am an AFT member. Guess what? I was never polled about the Common Core. I do not know a teacher who supports it. Our big worry has become how to choose the right “data driven” goals so that we look like we are improving. We certainly do not want to choose a goal or a subset of students that might be too challenging–we will be evaluated on it! People who have never taught are making the rules. BIG MONEY has bought out are unions. Where are we to turn?

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Jackie says:

October 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I am a member of NEA/TSTA, and I strongly oppose common core. I feel as if NEA has betrayed us. Under no circumstances should NEA be accepting money from any group with an agenda that is anti-teacher and pro TFA..

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Jamie Bowsher says:

October 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I am a card carrying dues paying member of NEA and I disagree wholeheartedly with this article. I especially take issue with #3. My special education students are not benefiting from CCSS. Their alternate assessments are based on grade level standards that they are not even close to achieving! ( Hence, the need for them to have IEPs!) I have a student who has severe CP, is blind, cannot walk, talk, feed herself, or use a toilet, who was expected to identify carbon dioxide as a compound on her AA! This is educational malpractice! IEPs are INDIVIDUAL, not COMMON! This way of thinking is a disservice to my students, and is making them feel even more anxious about school! Add to this that 50% of my evaluation is based on my student test scores! The CCSS was not designed for this purpose, yet that is how they are being utilized! It is maddening that my union supports this!

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Sharyle Burwell says:

October 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Most Teachers??? How many did you survey? Were the questions leading questions? I have been an NEA member for 30+ years and no one bothered to ask my opinion! What about the ramifications of CC based testing? Please tell ME how I feel about that! I am VERY DISAPPOINTED in an organization that seems to have sold out its members!

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Melissa says:

October 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I am an NEA member and it sickens me that this organization is supporting the Common Core. Are there elements that could be useful? Yes. Will the standards be implemented in a way that fully utilizes those elements? Nope. We’re already seeing it in NY in the way that materials are being created, lessons are being scripted, and the ridiculous amounts of money spent on these tests/test prep, etc. Shame on the NEA!!

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Melissa Smearer says:

October 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm

1. I am an NEA member that does NOT support the Common core!
2. the standards are dictating how we teach. There are programs such as EngageNY that have been designed so that teachers all have to teach the same thing on the same day, regardless of the learning levels of their students. then the students are being tested on this material.
3. The standards are not designed to help all students. what about the student that has the creativity to pursue art? Music? there is no more room for these interests with these standards. Creativity should not be standardized.
4. I have not seen anyone refer to there being literature in the standards. I have only been informed of informational texts being included.
5. School climate and interdisciplinary planning would be better to create cross curricular learning.
6. these assessments are doing nothing but adding to the stress and despair of our students and teachers.
7. Implementation should not be a work in progress. these standards and their implementation should have been thoroughly planned and tested before subjecting our students to this process.
8. Teacher leadership is essential. many teachers are leading the charge against the implementation of these standards. NEA should listen to them.
9. Parents are key partners. they need to be informed about exactly what these standards are doing to their children. those parents that are already taking a stand against it need to be listened to.
10. I don’t trust resources that are designed to help us with the implementation of the Common Core when the corporate players of educational reform are being exposed as people that have no interest in our students except as future profit for themselves.

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Dana says:

October 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Is this The Onion?

I’m an NEA member and was never asked about the common core. In fact, I have yet to meet any NEA member who agrees with or supports common core. Actually I haven’t heard a single teacher to date voive approval of common core. Where is NEA getting their info and who are they interviewing. A lot of us dues paying members would love to know.

Designed to help all students? Hmm. Well I guess that’s true since reformers ignore childten with special needs, ELL’s and children in high poverty areas.

I cannot believe that the NEA has sold out the very people who they say they represent. Time to cancel my membership.

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Melissa Smearer says:

October 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Point by point rebuttal..1. I am an NEA member that does NOT support the Common core!
2. the standards are dictating how we teach. There are programs such as EngageNY that have been designed so that teachers all have to teach the same thing on the same day, regardless of the learning levels of their students. then the students are being tested on this material.
3. The standards are not designed to help all students. what about the student that has the creativity to pursue art? Music? there is no more room for these interests with these standards. Creativity should not be standardized.
4. I have not seen anyone refer to there being literature in the standards. I have only been informed of informational texts being included.
5. School climate and interdisciplinary planning would be better to create cross curricular learning.
6. these assessments are doing nothing but adding to the stress and despair of our students and teachers.
7. Implementation should not be a work in progress. these standards and their implementation should have been thoroughly planned and tested before subjecting our students to this process.
8. Teacher leadership is essential. many teachers are leading the charge against the implementation of these standards. NEA should listen to them.
9. Parents are key partners. they need to be informed about exactly what these standards are doing to their children. those parents that are already taking a stand against it need to be listened to.
10. I don’t trust resources that are designed to help us with the implementation of the Common Core when the corporate players of educational reform are being exposed as people that have no interest in our students except as future profit for themselves

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Vincent Gutierrez says:

October 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I am also an NEA member and don’t recall ever being invited to participate in any sort of survey or poll about Common Core. I am also an ELD teacher, and I can guarantee you that Common Core does not benefit my students. They will, once again, be tested for their knowledge in a language they can barely speak, read, and write. I will not be allowed to translate or answer any questions unless I want to compromise the validity of the test. They will be classified, labeled, and ultimately demoralized when they get their results. And I will once again spend the rest of the year trying to motivate them and encouraging their growth, which is never truly measured. No, Common Core and the supplemental materials (adapted versions of the original text with less words, bigger font, huge pictures, highlighted vocabulary, and “kid-friendly” speak) is not going to benefit them because they will still be tested with the same readings and judged with the same “rigor”.

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Judith Strollo says:

October 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I have been a member of the NEA for 36 years and feel I have been sold out by the recent embrace of the Common Core. The standards do not take into consideration neurological readiness of young children and are totally age inappropriate for the younger grades. The movement also leaves special needs children out of the mix.. IEP’s are being pushed aside even though they are the legal documents. I would venture to guess, that in the future, there will be class action suits as school districts are in violation of IDEA.

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James DeYoung says:

October 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm

I am another NEA member who is disappointed in and angry with our leadership. I do not support the CCSS. The new standards force developmentally inappropriate content to early grades, continue the problem of the mile wide inch deep math curriculum, are resulting in even more testing, and so many other problems. These standards are being pushed down or throats by special interests who stand to make millions. They are supported by many whose real aim in school reform is to devise ways to make public schools look bad to continue the privatization that is under way.

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Tracy Pryor says:

October 20, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I am an NEA member, have been for 23 years. This article is OUTRAGEOUS!

“But schools are forging ahead with the initiative—even as it faces opponents who are determined to mislabel the effort as everything from “Obamacore” to a “national curriculum.” The Common Core is a set of voluntary K–12 standards in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. The White House did not create the initiative, nor is it leading it. The standards were developed by governors and state school officials, with input from a wide range of educators, content experts, national organizations (including NEA), and community groups.”
—I CAN NOT BELIEVE THAT NEA IS STATING THIS!!!

How much $$$$$$$ did Gates give NEA to write this garbage???

I DO NOT support the CC$$. I know many teachers, and none of them support the CC$$. Can you please publish the entire survey you are referencing so that we can all see the questions and number of members who answered each question.

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John Hallowitz says:

October 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm

One of the most damning things I can say about Kommon Kore is: I am a teacher with twenty five years experience in secondary school and nobody asked me or any of my colleagues. One of the best things I can say about Common Corpse is it did do away with CST. Yeah!! So NEA where are the comments supporting this article and the common core. I could’t find any. That’s a very silent 75%. Put it another way, anything that 25% of teachers damn has got to be questionable at best.

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Sarah Ross says:

October 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Strange I am a NEA member and I’ve never been polled on my feelings regarding CCSS. In fact I have not met any teachers who have been asked their feelings. I suspect that they are actively seeking the few rare teachers who agree with CCSS to take these polls. Not a single teacher in my building are pro CCSS. In fact I live in Alaska and our state has not adopted CCSS because our teachers are so heartily against it. Here the teachers form committees to form our standards. Imagine that, teachers dictating what students should be learning. It makes for a much less stressful career and a much better educational system for students to be in. Being in special education I am particularly against the third point of this article. If we were in CCSS my students would be expected to know things there is no way they would be able to learn right now. I work with intensive students. Neither can read or write or speak. One has just learned to walk independently the other has just learned the alphabet. I consider learning those skills, while basic for other students, to be huge successes for these students. (Hence the need for IEPs) If they were to be tested at grade level as the alternative assessments in CCSS are, they would fail miserably. I strive to set my students up for success, not to fail. The fact that evaluations of teachers are tied to the students’ test scores, CCSS becomes dangerous for teachers. CCSS may have been good in concept, but it is being used for a purpose it was not designed and the implementation was not properly planned out. It is a sad day when NEA no longer is supporting the voices of our teacher, its members.

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Liz Brown says:

October 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I am a teacher with 33 years experience, and I do support the CCSS. I didn’t respond to any NEA question either, but in all honesty I don’t know for sure that I was ever asked as I don’t usually take the time to read the emails nor snail mail that arrives. I teach in Washington, and we’ve had rigorous state standards for more than a decade. It has lead us to having the highest SAT scores in the nation in recent years. I’m glad to know that kids are have little to no chance in being placed in a classroom/school that simply babysits day in and day out.
The CCSS as a curriculum is a set of skills kids should be able to do at each grade level. How and when they are taught is left up to districts/schools/teachers. If as a teacher, you feel your hands are tied, blame your administration, not the Common Core.

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Margaret Bandy says:

October 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I am an NEA member and would be interested in seeing the poll that says 75% of members support CC. I do not believe that 75% of NEA member teachers support CC. While some of the high school standards are acceptable, the new PARCC test and the millions that will be spent on these standardized tests are not in any way acceptable. NEA should be supporting teachers in their desire to provide an education that will raise the next generation of artists, civic leaders and scientists. Instead, you are supporting the people who want to destroy public schools as they turn students into adults who can take a standardized test but do not have a well rounded education that includes more than the basics of math and English.

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Eileen McElroy says:

October 20, 2013 at 6:38 pm

I am a special education teacher for 25 years and I feel our unions and leadership sold us out. CC standards do not allow for differentiation so that ALL students may learn. They do not consider developmental readiness. I am saddened and horrified to watch pre-teens “check -out” day by day. I pray that this all implodes on itself as it should, since there will be no financing for these initiatives in a few years.

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Brenda Schaefer says:

October 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I am an NEA member and a member of BATs (Badass Teacher’s Association). Teachers have never been asked if they support Common Core so reporting that most do is irresponsible at best because no actual survey has been done.

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Janis Swanson says:

October 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Sorry NEA, I do not like where you are headed with supporting CCSS. When I see EXXON advertisements endorsing the Common Core I start to ask “why” and find exactly what I was suspecting that big business is pulling the strings on education. A little education is a dangerous thing.

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Claudia Swisher says:

October 20, 2013 at 8:43 pm

And, remind me again…How much money DID Bill Gates ‘invest’ in NEA? You should be supporting teachers, not the Billionaire Boys’ Club efforts to own public education.

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Marla Kilfoyle says:

October 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm

NEA may know 10 things that teachers say about Common Corpse. I know one thing that 30,500 BATs are saying about this! We say no more to Common Core! Stop pushing this and get on board to support your teachers. Give Gates his money back!

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Juan Rivera says:

October 20, 2013 at 9:21 pm

If there are going to be national standards educators need to be central to that process and it needs to be democratic process. You need to step back from this pile of foo. Parents in NY are waking up to this nonsense.

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Michael Ringle says:

October 20, 2013 at 10:40 pm

NEA member here, I don’t support the Common Core. Where’d you get these numbers? Strongly reconsidering my membership given the fact that my state NEA president in Michigan speaks up for the Common Core all the time. Time for a change!

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Shannon Smith says:

October 21, 2013 at 1:03 am

Most teachers do not support Common Core. Start listening to your members.

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Debra says:

October 21, 2013 at 11:24 am

Are you reading the comments to this one article??? Where are the teachers who you SAY support CC$$?? NEA had better wake up and listen to what their members are saying or they will have few members left! Teachers DO NOT support the CC$$ so stop drinking Bill Gate’s intoxicating kool aid! Once you take $ from Gates, you become part of the ed reform problem. NEA has sold out for $, how much $ will you lose as membership shrinks. If we can not cunt on NEA to fight for teachers then why join?? I have been a member for 35 years and this is the first time I would tell new teachers to walk away from NEA!

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Brenda Guy says:

October 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I am a member of ISTA and NEA. Where did the statement that “most NEA members support common core” come from? If you ask the teachers I know, I don’t believe that would be the answer. I am a union supporter and want to continue to be a union supporter, but I’m not sure this proves to me that the NEA is in tune with its members! ^0^ BATS are watching … (30,000+)

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Julie Smith says:

October 21, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I know of NO ONE who was polled anywhere about this. We don’t need more goofy standards. If you compare the number of days our students attend school in the USA versus SIngapore or Taiwan or many other countries it shakes out thus: USA : around 180 school days per year. Taiwan: 280 days per year (they are in school Monday – Saturday, 7:00am – 4:00pm). SIngapore: 278 days per year and so on. Keep in mind that not all children attend school in many of these societies/ countries either. It is only for those whose parents can afford school. Our students have the advantage of a great deal more PLAY time. Play is VERY valuable. Hence the great creativity of our country.
This spin that our schools are failing is rubbish and I too am so sorry our union has sold us out.

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Stephanie says:

October 21, 2013 at 11:07 pm

You do not represent me any more if you truly believe what you say. YOU ARE SHAMEFUL. I am sure you will find someway to spin the comments of your members to be a “small but vocal group”. That gets old. WE ARE HERE AND WE ARE ANGRY. YOU LIE NEA. Stop it.

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Mike Hastings says:

October 22, 2013 at 12:31 am

NEA President Van Roekel warns “Common Core …. if it is implemented correctly.” In my 38 years of teaching I have NEVER seen public policies,such as PL 94-142, the Rehab Act, ESEA (No Child Left Behind), “correctly implemented”. These grand designs have ALWAYS disappointed all of their stakeholders. State and local policy makers and administrators always fight against the noble ideals of these policies. Noble ideals take an enormous and sustained effort to reach an effective threshold. Public School administrators and school boards guide their decisions by the mantra “When is my next contract or when is the next election.” This short sighted, small minded, self-serving thinking has been and continues to thwart, the correct implementation of worthy policy directions.

angry teacher two

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The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is dealing with teachers outraged for similar reasons. Here is an open letter written this week by Chicago high school history teacher Paul Horton, to AFT leadership.

(I am continually amazed at the number of education reforms that both Democratic and Republican teachers are rising to oppose. There are a few things we may not agree upon, but the vast majority of Obama and Arne Duncan’s education reforms are reprehensible to both sides of the political aisle.)

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Ms. Weingarten,

I had a lot of respect for AFT and Al Shanker even when I worked in a right-to-work-state, Texas. But things are changing now for many AFT members. Many of us believe that we are beyond the stage of tactical battles and diplomacy.

Many teachers are concerned with the amount of money that we have taken from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and why we haven’t taken Race to the Top (RttT) and the big foundations head-on. Mr. Duncan’s policies are clearly shaped by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundations (Gates, Walton, Joyce, Broad) are clearly doing everything they can to bust teacher unions and are working with Democrats and Republicans to do so. To be viable without foundation support we need an insurgent organization that combines the efforts of parent groups, United Opt Out, anti-Common Core movements, AFT, and NEA.

Very much like the biracial Populists of the early 1890s, we should not support any candidates who support any element of RttT (the Common Core Curriculum, Value-added teacher assessments, more support for private charters, PARCC or Smarter Balanced standardized assessments, and data mining and sharing of student and family information).

Here in Illinois, for example, we all need to support an insurgent candidate for governor who, unlike Rauner (Mr. Emanuel’s millionaire developer Republican buddy) and Quinn who signed RttT and protects the Pearson Education crony state ed superintendent Chris Koch, who will stand for local control, democratically elected school boards, an end to funding for private charters, respect and support for neighborhood schools, and who will not fund any form of standardized testing not developed and graded by Illinois teachers. This candidate must be prepared to reject Gates, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) Wall Street bundled, and other foundation money, support higher taxation on the wealthy, and hire more qualified teachers for school wrap around services.

Many of us in Chicago want much stronger and vocal support for CTU, support for teacher pensions. We need the state and national AFT to be much more vocal and to tell the truth. We have to fight power with power.

I personally will be looking for our state representative to go after Mr. Duncan and all elements of RttT on Thursday night at the Forum on the Common Core Curriculum sponsored by David Axelrod’s Center for the Study of American Politics at the University of Chicago.

We have a war in Chicago and the Obama administration has shown nothing but hostility for teachers. The President’s former chief of staff, our current mayor, who bundles the Wall Street bucks of DFER and picked Arne to do their bidding deserves our unqualified public opposition. You can not make nice with this administration or the Gates, Walton, Broad, or Joyce foundations and enjoy support among many in the rank and file. We need to know whose side you are on.

Paul Horton
History Instructor
University High School
The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Video: How Indiana Mom Heather Crossin is Beating Common Core   6 comments

This interview with Indiana Mother Heather Crossin is not to be missed. Speaking to the Civitas Institute, she tells the story of how she got involved with the fight against Common Core:

Her third grade daughter came home from her Catholic parochial school with Common Core math worksheets. The worksheets had a “shockingly small amount” of practice, and an “inordinate amount of time spent explaining in writing how students got to answers” which had to be written by students in very scripted ways. Heather started to ask questions.

She soon found herself at a school meeting to discuss the Common Core styled math, and heard a sales pitch from a Pearson Education sales representative. She and the parents in the room didn’t like the pitch nor the new math. Then the principal informed them that there was no choice. That was Heather’s moment of illumination.

Suddenly I realized the control over what was being taught in my child’s third grade classroom was now not at my school level. In fact, it was not even at the state level. It had been removed and all control now resided outside the state of Indiana, with private trade associations that owned the copyright to these standards. So no one in my school building, or even in my state, had the ability to change, edit or delete a set of standards that I found right out of the gate to be problematic…

“…We could not believe that a shift of this magnitude had occurred in our state and no one was aware of it. We felt an overwhelming desire to at least let the people know what had happened. We felt strongly that if people knew that this type of a shift in power and control had occurred, they would be outraged as we were, and I think we found that they were.”

In this interview, Heather also explains why parents can and must get involved:

“The stakes are so high. This is not an issue that can be ignored. It really affects not just our children’s future but really our country’s future.”

She touches on the fact that the Common Core testing system (aligned now with college entrance exams) places even home schooled students and private school students at a serious disadvantage. She also relates the method by which she and other parents pushed for, and succeeded in getting, the first “pause” legislation to stop Common Core for Indiana, adding:

“The most powerful weapon that we’ve had… is that the truth and the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of the Common Core opponents. That is a very powerful weapon.”


Watch and share.

To see an additional film of Heather’s public speech at the Civitas event, see: http://stopcommoncorenc.org/2013/10/14/heather-crossin-ordinary-people-can-make-difference/

Thank you, Heather!

Utah Legislator Sparks Debate on US Education: To Reform or Restore?   7 comments

This week, a Utah legislator posted his views about education reform on his Facebook wall. The following post was compiled from that wall, by a Utah mother, Alyson Williams.

(Names have been replaced with generic titles.)

Thank you, Alyson.

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U.S. Education: to Reform or Restore?

Guest post by Utah Mother Alyson Williams

While we wish that these kinds of exchanges were happening in our state halls rather than just social media platforms, this exchange between a parent, a teacher, and a legislator as excerpted from the Utah legislator’s Facebook wall introduces an important question: should we be expanding and advancing centralized education reform or be seeking to restore ideals that have been lost? Do we know our own history well enough to discern the difference?

Parent: [Teacher], you seem to be talking just about the [Common Core] standards while [parent activist] has raised a warning about a bigger issue. Every state that adopted the standards did so in conjunction with a number of other reforms, the combination of which shift governance of education in significant ways. I hope this overview helps clarify that: http://prezi.com/icbma_8t5snu/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

I appreciate [Representative] taking the time to attend a presentation I did on this subject in [City.]

Teacher: I did watch your presentation. I commend you for your activism and I understand your viewpoint. I have done my own extensive research. I even interviewed people from the Gates Foundation. I just don’t agree with your view point. Best wishes.

Parent: [Teacher], one way of demonstrating that we understand one another’s viewpoint is to restate it in our own words as I have attempted above. Apparently my understanding of your viewpoint being based on the standards alone is not complete. Would you be willing to share your research? What did you learn in speaking to the Gates Foundation? The goal of the reforms has been clearly stated as making kids “college and career ready,” or as the Governor explains it, “education for the workforce demands of the marketplace.” The reforms ensure a more coordinated and central role for state and federal government in this workforce oriented goal. Am I correctly understanding that you support that outcome?

Teacher: Yes that is correct and I think it is reasonable to believe that no matter what I share, you and I will still be of the same opinion still:) I have only replied to a few of [Representative’s] points as he is my representative and someone I have a great deal of respect for. You and I also know we could spend hours exchanging research-hours of which I do not have. I have a family, a full time teaching job and a personal life. I wish you well on your own path.

Parent: I can certainly identify with how busy you are [Teacher.] Thank you for confirming your viewpoint. I think it will be helpful to those following this thread to see more clearly both sides. As you say, I simply have a different viewpoint and value the way that education in our country was, for a long time, unique. For much of our history the purpose of American education was to nurture the development of self-governing citizens, with work being incidental to that development. Government-coordinated education for the workforce is an imported philosophy. Our Founding Fathers and other great thinkers were who they were because they studied the great works, not work itself. This nation has uniquely thrived according to the principle that a broadly educated and free people pursuing their own dreams works better than centrally planned education for efficiently trained workers.

Representative: … this is a good discussion. As a taxpayer, I don’t want my dollars going to public schools unless those schools are focusing on getting kids ready for jobs and the work force. Most of our country’s founders were not products of a public education system and they had different goals for their own classical education, and leisure time to pursue those goals (philosophy, government, law). I want the schools in my world to do everything they can to train the students to be ready to get a job in the modern workplace, and to expose them to those career and job skills now. Most of the skills that need to be taught in K-12 public schools to prepare students for the work force are essentially just literacy and numeracy, and those can and will continue to be taught by studying classical works (as my own kids are doing to the hilt now under Utah’s Common Core standards, based on my own personal experience reading The Scarlet Letter and other works together with them this year). But if we don’t make sure that these foundational language and math classes are aligned to the workplace and producing the skills needed in the work force, then I think we are wasting precious taxpayer dollars. By using terms such as “centrally planned economy,” many critics of Common Core make it sound like our U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by endorsing Common Core, is advocating moving our country to socialism. But of course that is not the case. Private businesses recognize that a large reason for the success and ascendancy of the United States on the world stage in the past century has been careful government planning and regulation (roads and transportation infrastructure, banking systems, stock market regulation, etc.). Central government planning is not inconsistent with free-market capitalism — in fact, I would argue it is essential for its endurance, if the U.S. wants to continue to be the leader on the world stage. For me, it is all about finding the right balance between government management and individual liberty. I think the minimal educational guidelines being implemented as Utah’s Common Core strike that proper balance and do not in any way endanger an individual’s liberties to pursue in this great country whatever she or he wishes to in life — in fact, the standards are an aid to help individuals more fully exercise and realize those individual freedoms of self-expression. Thanks for weighing in.

Parent: [Representative], I hope you, and the parents reading that last entry can recognize the false dichotomy implicit in your opening assertion. Current education reform is not about whether students should be well educated and prepared for professional success or not. The conflict is about whether that desirable goal is best achieved under local governance or if we should disregard the wisdom of history (and current federal statute) and allow for greater federal or otherwise centralized control. “Education for the workforce demands of the marketplace” does not just mean that we want our kids to be able to get a good job. It means policy, funding, programs etc. are prioritized for assessing and predicting what skills will be most useful to the workforce by the time our kids reach the workforce, and who has those skills – predictions that are notoriously inaccurate. Instead of fitting education to the aptitudes and interests of the individual, giving each his best shot, this system attempts to guide the individual to the education deemed best for the “greater common good.” The emphasis on the child as an investment of the collective, not an agent unto himself, is a principle of socialism and this, not the shortsighted endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is what liberty-minded people are criticizing. You mention your objective of finding a balance between government management and individual liberty. The bedrock principle for conservatives in identifying this balance is to only assign to the higher level of government what cannot be accomplished by a more local level. Thomas Jefferson explained it this way, “… the way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the national government be entrusted with the defence of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself.” You specifically praise the federal role in transportation infrastructure. That is a good example of something that might best be accomplished through the cooperation of states working through Congress (the body we elect to make these kinds of collective decisions, as opposed to that one club for Governors who’ve taken this role upon themselves recently.) This happens to be President Obama’s favorite example as well. [Ironically, he used it often when promoting the Stimulus which proved the catalyst for advancing these education reforms.] If I had a dollar for every speech in which he mentions “roads and bridges” (and how they’re crumbling, necessitating more spending) while touting the benevolence of an increasingly powerful and indebted federal government! It is clear that you like the standards which are under the jurisdiction of the State School Board. The rest, and the bulk of the reforms, are under the jurisdiction of the State Legislature. As an elected representative in that body I hope you’ll continue to familiarize yourself with the impact of those policies as well. Thank YOU for weighing in. It is so important to constituents to understand the positions of their representatives.

Parent again: As long winded as that was, I forgot to respond to one point you made. The founding fathers were indeed, for the most part, more fortunate in their opportunities for education because of their wealth and privilege. One notable exception is of course Benjamin Franklin, the youngest son of a mixed family that included something like 16 total siblings and step siblings. (There’s a fantastic study of a self-taught, self-made man.) What many of these men seemed to understand about the sustainability of their newly-formed Republic was that in order to have a self-governing people education had to become more than training for a trade like the privately arranged apprenticeships of the day – that the domains such as history, philosophy and law previously accessible only to the elite must be accessible to all. Our abandonment of this ideal in favor of skills rewarded in the workforce, especially over the past half-century, has resulted in our current situation where key protections of liberty established by the Constitution are systematically eroded and erased while too many sit idly by in apathy or ignorance. Meanwhile we continue to saddle the upcoming generations with the servitude of an outrageously unsustainable debt all the while professing to have their future financial success and the desire for a robust economy at heart. (We never did get a cost analysis on these reforms.)

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I want to add two things to what Alyson compiled.

1. “Combination of education with industrial production” is a direct goal, point #10, of the Communist Manifesto.. The push to align workforce with education goes directly against free agency and toward central planning. Do American legislators realize they’re enabling socialism/communism when they support “finding the right balance between government management and individual liberty?” You can’t balance the human tendency toward controlling others very easily; hence, the limitations outlined to keep the government very, very small and the people’s power big. The individual should have full control over his/her life.

2. In a book called “Free Agency: A Divine Gift,” a Utahn, David O. McKay, who was also a former teacher, wrote: “Let us, by exercising our privileges under the Constitution… Preserve our right to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience, preserve the right to work when and where we choose. . . Feel free to plan and to reap without the handicap of bureaucratic interference, Devote our time, means, and life if necessary, to hold inviolate those laws which will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience.”

The wonder of individual, unfettered freedom and the absurd lie (that society needs central planners) is debunked in a great short film called “I, Pencil.” Worth watching.

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